There are few more high-pressured positions in England than taking on the role of the country’s soccer manager. Known as The Impossible Job, it’s a position that comes with expectations topping any other national team job. In overseeing the country’s obsession, the manager’s decisions come face to face with 55 million other opinions, each unafraid to fiercely voice them.

Of all those who’ve taken on the role since England’s sole tournament victory in 1966, nobody has come closer to success than current manager Gareth Southgate. At his first tournament in charge, he took the team to the semi-finals of the 2018 World Cup. He went one step better at the following Euros. England reached its first final in 55 years. One year later at the 2022 World Cup, England was a Harry Kane penalty miss away from a possible victory over France at the Qatar World Cup.

And yet there remains a large proportion of England fans who are wholly unconvinced by his ability to lead the team to glory come this summer’s Euros.

A large part of that comes from the knowledge that he has at his disposal one of the finest selections of players that the country has seen. It is a squad that should be able to finally lay to rest those years of heartbreaking defeats, missed opportunities, and out-and-out failure. The heralded ‘golden generation’ of Beckham, Rooney, Lampard, Ferdinand, Gerrard, Scholes and more could not get it done. The current crop of players are proven talents at the top of their game, they can lead England to glory.

In short, this is undeniably Southgate’s most important decision of his time as England manager. There will be little forgiveness if he gets it wrong.

Southgate faces critical Euro 2024 squad decisions

It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that the best players in the Premier League, La Liga and the Bundesliga this season are all English – something that seemed near-impossible not long ago. Harry Kane and Jude Bellingham’s successes overseas can only be to the benefit of their national team.

Those two players will be among the first on Southgate’s team sheet but the make-up of the rest of his Euros squad is likely to be more fiercely debated than ever and the outcome will be the defining factor in determining how successful his reign as manager has been.

Most of the attention will be on the players that he will leave out of the squad. With the strength of his options at the top of the pitch, there will be strong opinions about those unable to fit into the front-line positions. In addition to captain Kane, Bukayo Saka and Phil Foden are sure to make the cut. The rest, however, face a nervy wait by the phone. Among them are Ollie Watkins and Ivan Toney, vying for the position of understudy to Kane and only likely to get on the pitch when he’s being rested – or worse, injured.

The wide options in what will probably be a three-man attack cause even bigger headaches. Cole Palmer has had an incredible season at Chelsea, but he favors more of a central role. Jack Grealish and Marcus Rashford – both regulars in the squad – have had uneven seasons. Injury and drops in form make them less reliable for Southgate’s plans. Anthony Gordon and Jarrod Bowen remain largely unproven at international level. Both offer Southgate a different profile of player and a more direct route to the goal.

Completing a midfield trio

James Maddison is another player who has failed to win Southgate over. He is better suited to a No. 10 role that Jude Bellingham is sure to dominate in Germany. Crystal Palace’s Eberechi Eze is another exciting talent who might just have to wait for the next tournament. For Raheem Sterling, England’s second-highest scorer of the current crop, it seems he’s fallen out of favor. Consequently, he may not feature in the coming squad for Southgate at Euro 2024

Who partners Declan Rice and Jude Bellingham? That question highlights the lack of great central midfielders in this generation of England. Jordan Henderson would prove an unpopular choice among supporters. Regardless, Southgate puts his faith in the 33-year-old who no longer plays in the Premier League regularly. Will he be brave enough to start the former Liverpool captain over bright young thing Kobbie Mainoo? And what of Connor Gallagher?

Defensive puzzle

Another headscratcher comes in the back four of the Euro 2024 squad for Southgate. Harry Maguire – as unpopular as Henderson in many fans’ eyes – is a near-guaranteed starter. Barring injury, he’ll partner John Stones. Kyle Walker will occupy the right and Luke Shaw, if fit, will work the left. That is a big if. The Manchester United full-back has missed the majority of the season. Throwing him in a starting line-up with little action will represent a huge risk from Southgate. The England manager has not been one to take significant risks in his time leading the Three Lions.

England fans would be happy to see some defensive changes from the previous Southgate squads. For several reasons, these options will not win over Southgate. Despite winning Serie A with AC Milan two seasons ago, Fikayo Tomori has yet to convince Southgate. Hotly tipped Everton defender Jarrad Branthwaite featured in the last squad. He failed to see any minutes, confusing a large number of supporters. They recognize the urgency in securing a decent ‘Plan B’ at the heart of defense. Eric Dier’s turnaround at Bayern Munich is another player who thinks he deserves a spot on the plane to Germany. He can fill this much-needed role as a backup for England.

Whatever the make-up of the squad ends up being, it will be met with anger and confusion. The only hope for Southgate will be that those who earn a call-up justify his decision. England can end the summer with their heads – and maybe even the trophy – held high.


Euro 2024

Here are some resources to get you ready for Euros!
Euro Bracket: Download a free PDF bracket for the tournament
Euro 2024 Schedule: Full schedule of all games for the 2024 tournament
How to watch: Information on where to find the games on TV and streaming
How to Stream Learn how you can stream Euro games live in 2024
2024 Soccer Calendar: Get the lowdown on what will be a busy year in soccer